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Aronowitz THE WORK OF HENRI LEFEBVRE - 8.Aronowitz 5:21 PM...

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THE WORK OF HENRI LEFEBVRE 133 THE WORK OF HENRI LEFEBVRE T HE ANGLO-AMERICAN reception of Henri Lefebvre(1901-1991) is a classic case of mis-recognition. Although he has been called a sociol- ogist, an urbanist, and a social theorist, he has rarely been under- stood as a philosopher. The recently translated third volume of the Critique of Everyday Life should correct past impressions, not only because Lefebvre himself subtitles the book “Toward a meta-philosophy of everyday life,” but the work makes original contributions to philosophy. It is not excessive to claim that he is the ecophilosopher of the 21 st century, for he made the connection between the massive despoiling of the global ecosystems, the new shape of social time and social space and the struggle for the transfor- mation of everyday life which, he claims, is the key to the project of chang- ing life and repairing our collective relationship to nature. Lefebvre’s creative work spanned most of the 20 th century and after World War II, he was a leading French intellectual who wrote on a wide array of subjects that transgressed the disciplines, especially the relation of philoso- phy to the social sciences and art. He also argued against the confinement of knowledge by disciplinary conventions. For decades marxists, sociolo- gists and others in the social sciences and philosophy ignored him, not mainly because most of his writing remained un-translated but because he could not be easily classified within the existing disciplinary predisposi- tions. And he suffered a paradoxical fate: during the Cold War era as a marxist he was excluded from mainstream commentary in the US by an academic establishment that was incapable of distinguishing between dogma and creativity. When his writing was appropriated at all it had to fit narrowly into the conventions of the disciplines and as a result he was classified most comfortably as a sociologist, a designation that inevitably distorted the substance of his work. This impression may have been abetted by the English language publication in the 1970s of Lefebvre’s The Sociology of Marx , which was commissioned as part of a series on major figures of sociological thought. At the time none of his major works (more than fifty books) had been translated, the excep- tions being his study of the May 1968 Paris events, The Explosion (1970); Everyday Life in the Modern World (1971), a collection of papers covering diverse subjects; and Dialectical Materialism (originally published in 1939, THE IGNORED PHILOSOPHER AND SOCIAL THEORIST Stanley Aronowitz
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Stanley Aronowitz 134 THE WORK OF HENRI LEFEBVRE but only translated in the 1960s by a British publisher). Enamored with Louis Althusser and his school, the academic left largely ignored these works because he was a representative of the hegelian-marxist tradition that they were laboring to discredit. He was a prolific writer on rural social life, but these works have largely escaped the notice of American sociology, in
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Aronowitz THE WORK OF HENRI LEFEBVRE - 8.Aronowitz 5:21 PM...

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